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Recruiting, Interviewing and Selecting Sales Force Talent

4. How to Question for Results

All skills are learned and perfected through practice; if you want to be good at interviewing, evaluating and selecting the best salespeople, you need to learn the skills and practice them. Repetition is the motor of learning!

So what's the purpose of the interview? Of course it's to find out about the person. To do this we need to gather information that is: Specific, Relevant and Adequate for our purpose.

Like a good trial lawyer, we need to gather evidence that will allow us to make the best hiring decision. The key to gathering SPECIFIC information is to ensure we ask the right questions.

The master story-teller, Rudyard Kipling, wrote a simple poem that we should all keep closely in mind when preparing and asking questions. It goes like this: “I kept six honest serving men; they taught me all I knew. Their names were what, why, when, where, how and who."

If you’ll preface your questions with one of these six words you’ll ensure they are open, and focused on gathering very specific information.

Interview questions fall into two broad categories:

There are two basic techniques used in questioning, the first being the use of Open Questions. These are any question that can’t be answered with a simple yes or no, and are used primarily in the information gathering stage. These questions begin with What, Why, When, Where, How and Who; and also include questions such as ’Describe to me…..’ or ‘Tell me about…..’

Exercise 1
Write three ‘job related’ open questions (based on the job description you wrote earlier) that will uncover the Can-Do attributes you’ve identified.

Exercise 2
Write three ‘personally related’ open questions that will uncover the Will-Do attributes you’ve identified.

To question effectively, you must also listen effectively. Here are some Rules for Effective Listening:
  • anticipate the points that are likely to be made
  • mentally sum up the points that the person makes
  • weigh the facts that are given
  • listen between the lines, not just to what is said
  • ask yourself: ‘why are they telling me this?’
The second basic questioning technique uses Closed Questions. These are any question that can usually be answered with a yes or no, and are used for clarification and to verify information. These questions begin with:  Do, Did, Does, Are, Are you, Is that the situation….
Listen with both your ears and your eyes, and physically reward people by acknowledging that you are listening (with a smile, nod, questioning head movement, ah-ah, etc). Listen also for any inconsistencies in what people say.
Now let's look at how to interview, evaluate and select the best sales candidate.
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